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Thursday, July 07, 2022

Law enforcement and fire rescue travel to hurricane-impacted areas

<p><span id="docs-internal-guid-8d1e023c-7fff-fdfa-04e4-ef390fea69fe"><span>ACFR’s radio communications team set up a 100-foot radio tower in Mexico Beach to provide communication between rescue teams.</span></span></p>

ACFR’s radio communications team set up a 100-foot radio tower in Mexico Beach to provide communication between rescue teams.

Alachua County emergency personnel left behind their beds at home for trailers stuffed with cots in the Florida Panhandle.

Teams from Alachua County Fire Rescue, Gainesville Police and Alachua County Sheriff’s Office drove hours to get to areas wrecked by Hurricane Michael last week. 

The Category 4 hurricane spared Alachua County but devastated the Florida Panhandle when it made landfall Oct. 10. 

About 40 officers, firefighters and paramedics traveled to help local agencies with search efforts and damaged communication networks. 

Fire rescue sent two teams for rescue and radio communications to Panama City and Mexico Beach early Thursday once the storm cleared, Deputy Chief Harold Theus said.

“If it happened here, we would have an enormous amount of support,” he said.

The 10-person rescue team drove to Panama City with paramedics and ambulances. The team evacuated patients and slept in a hospital before leaving to join the rest of the crew in Mexico Beach on Saturday, Theus said.

Fire rescue sent its radio communications team directly to Mexico Beach, he said. The four-person team volunteered to set up communication equipment between rescue teams. 

Gainesville Police officers joined fire rescue Friday in Panama City. About eight officers volunteered to give local law enforcement a chance to rest, Sgt. David Schramek said. 

“It doesn’t matter what agency you’re from, you work together for one goal,” Schramek said. “You try to restore as much normalcy as possible.”

Despite limited phone service, the department heard back from officers asking for supplies, Schramek said. 

On Sunday, police asked for clothes, diapers, tarps and other supplies and drove the donations to the Panhandle the next day.

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The department will send another team to replace the officers in Panama City this weekend, Schramek said.

In Gulf County, 17 deputies partnered with Columbia County and Marion County sheriff’s offices to direct traffic and search for survivors, Alachua County Sheriff Office spokesperson Art Forgey said.

Four deputies set up satellite dishes to restore communication lines, he said. Another deputy went to Holmes County to use computerized mapping to find survivors.

The deputies will be in the Panhandle for at least two weeks.

“They’re truly heroes, doing this unselfishly,” Forgey said. “I’m glad to be a part of (Alachua County Sheriff’s Office) and be able to send people there to help the community rebuild.”

Contact Jessica Curbelo at jcurbelo@alligator.org and follow her on Twitter at @jesscurbelo

ACFR’s radio communications team set up a 100-foot radio tower in Mexico Beach to provide communication between rescue teams.

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